Though Dawn Approach's eclipse in the Derby has taken him out of the middle-distance picture, his trainer, Jim Bolger, has nonetheless found one on the bench for Ireland's version of the Classic at the Curragh. Yesterday at the Co Kildare track Trading Leather joined the roster of those set to square up against the hot favourite Ruler Of The World, the Epsom hero who is set to be the sole Ballydoyle representative as his trainer, Aidan O'Brien, goes for an eighth successive victory.
The low-key Silver Stakes was Trading Leather's third run in 25 days, after his runner-up spot to the subsequent Derby second Libertarian in the Dante Stakes on his seasonal debut and then his third to Magician in the Irish 2,000 Guineas. And like many from the Glebe House academy, he seems to be thriving on effort. Though yesterday's 10-furlong contest represented a drop in class which he started 5-4 favourite to win, he completed his task with such conspicuous enthusiasm it took rider Kevin Manning some time to anchor him after the finish.
Trading Leather was cut to 6-1 third favourite for the Irish Derby after his three-and-a-half length defeat of Lines Of Battle, one of the Ballydoyle lesser lights. Libertarian is second choice at 9-2. "All going well in the meantime, it will be the Irish Derby next," said Bolger of the son of Teofilo. "He is very straightforward but needs good or faster ground, so we hope the weather stays like it is now."
Bolger reported that Dawn Approach, who lost his unbeaten record at Epsom, has emerged from the experience unscathed, but that no future plans have been formulated. "He's very well," he said, "and is still awesome. Wherever he goes he'll be worth waiting for."
This year's US Classic series concluded late on Saturday night with a different winner in each of the Triple Crown races, as 14-1 shot Palace Malice took the final leg, the Belmont Stakes. The colt, ridden by Mike Smith, came home three and a quarter lengths in front of Oxbow, winner of the Preakness Stakes, with the Kentucky Derby hero Orb third.
Palace Malice had run 12th of 19 to Orb at Churchill Downs (where Oxbow came in sixth, one place ahead of Lines Of Battle), but on that occasion had blazed an unsustainably fast pace after being overgalvanised by first-time blinkers. With the headgear left off in New York he was still in the leading group throughout, but relaxed. And, slipstreaming Oxbow as that one went for home half a mile out, he had plenty in reserve as his stamina kicked in down the home straight. "The key to the win was blinkers off," said Smith. "This time, he was enjoying it."
Oxbow stayed on gamely to repel the 11-5 favourite Orb, who finished equally willingly from an impossibly long way off the pace, in front of the Godolphin contender Incognito.
Palace Malice was one of five in the mile-and-a-half contest trained by Todd Pletcher, who also picked up prize money with fifth-placed Revolutionary. It was a second Belmont victory for Pletcher, who saddled Rags To Riches to beat Curlin, Palace Malice's sire, by a head six years ago.
At Auteuil yesterday, Gemix thwarted a six-strong Anglo-Irish challenge for France's richest hurdles prize, the Grand Course des Haies. The five-year-old, trained by Nicolas Bertran de Balanda, sprinted away from Cheltenham and Aintree staying champion Solwhit, from Charles Byrnes' yard, on the run-in to score by eight lengths.
Zaidpour snatched third, but his Willie Mullins stablemate Thousand Stars, going for a hat-trick in the three-and-a-quarter-mile Grade One, finished distressed. But there was success for the Mullins team with Diakali in the four-year-old hurdle.
CHRIS MCGRATH'S NAP: Excuse To Linger (4.45 Brighton)
Did not help himself by running keenly last time, but was up against a progressive, better handicapped rival in any case. Runs off the same mark today and it may be his turn to prove the blot.
NEXT BEST: Grand Denial (8.30 Windsor)
Got off the mark by four lengths in first-time blinkers last month.